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#STINGDAILY: The `It' Factor

Feb. 25, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Brian Gregory has a measured sort of patience in that the Georgia Tech coach is not one to call out players in the presence of media, and he recognizes – maybe even expects – there to be an occasional game where the Yellow Jackets just don’t have the “it”.

The “it” is a critical intangible more easily sensed than described. Has nothing to do with shooting prowess. Has everything to do with a team’s collective competitive nature.

No surprise then that the Tech coach was a tad clipped in comments Sunday after his team lost its “it” for the second game in a row. The Jackets fell 82-54 Sunday at Virginia.

Each time, Tuesday against North Carolina and at Virginia, the Jackets were turning the ball over at an alarming rate yet clawed their way into range early in the second half. They hung around each time with moxie.

Both times, it went south in a hurry. Moxie checked out.

“It was the first time in a long time that we did not compete at the level you need to compete at in this league so I was disappointed in that,” Gregory said.

The Jackets pulled within five points early in the second half on a 3-pointer by Robert Carter Jr., and then the Cavs went on a 16-1 run to win their 15th straight game at home. They’ve been routinely trouncing folks on their campus, but there can be no rationalizing a 28-point loss.

So Gregory did not try.

“I thought the first six minutes of [the second] half, and the first three minutes of the game were the only times that we were playing at the level that you need to play against Virginia,” the Tech coach said.

The Jackets trailed 41-29 at halftime, which was surprising because they’d turned the ball over 10 times in the first half to Virginia’s two.

Center Daniel Miller had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Jackets with 12 points.

Tech, though, totaled just eight assists and played its least effective defensive game as the Cavs outscored the Jackets 46-22 in the paint. North Carolina found similar success inside against Tech earlier in the week. Virginia also enjoyed a 25-5 edge in points scored off turnovers, and the Jackets did not score a single fast break point.

There really wasn’t much good news in Charlottesville unless you fancy the idea that the Jackets could follow the path of Virginia coach Tony Bennett and his team.

He, like Gregory, orients his approach around defense and low-risk offense. If only the Jackets (14-12, 4-10 ACC) could fast-forward the process, which has stalled of late.

In Bennett’s first season at Virginia, the Cavs were 15-16, then, 16-15. Last season, UVA was 22-10.  Soon, an NCAA tournament bid is likely for the Cavs (19-8, 9-6).

“Give Tony and that team credit; they played very well,” Gregory said. “Over the last six weeks they’ve been playing just as well as, if not better than, everybody in this league. They showed that today . . . they out-performed us in every aspect.”

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